A few days after the release of Thaana Serndha Kootam, director Vignesh ShivN reveals the reasons behind choosing to work on a remake, fashioning the script to suit the lead actor and his audience, and finally, writing successful, empowered women characters for screen.
There’s something pleasant about the post-release interview format. Filmmakers willingly allow you to delve deeper into their craft, and answer questions they never can before the release without compromising on the suspense factor. There’s no worry about any big reveal, no hesitation to speak about the climax. Vignesh ShivN is no different. We speak a little after 10.30 pm, two days after his latest Thaana Serndha Kootam/Gang is certified a winner by the trade analysts, and his replies are as effervescent as his dialogues.
You come from a police background. Is that a reason why you don’t glorify them, but showcase them as regular people on screen?
Possible. This is known territory. I know what their life is about. It’s what I call ‘therinja vishayam, paathu pazhagina vishayam’ [something I know, something I’ve lived]. And, therefore, I had to show their everyday life, and not make them larger-than-life. Having said that, if the story demands a cop as villain, I would do that.
A few reviews have compared the treatment of Thaana Serndha Kootam with its original Special 26. What was the reason you did what you did with the film?
I’ll be frank. I have never wanted to make a remake in my life. Pasicha naane simple-a oru rasam vechu saapadra type [If I’m hungry, I’m the kind who will rustle up a simple meal myself]. I’ll never head out to buy food. But, I was in a position where this seemed a viable option. After Naanun Rowdy Thaan, I worked for about eight months on my next project Kaathu Vaakula Rendu Kaadhal. But, it did not take off then, and I did not have the energy to start from scratch again. This project came my way, and my goal was to use the original movie as a reference point and create my own storyline, so to speak.
The difference between the talented and the successful is opportunity. I knew that if I did not take it up, someone else would. And so, I did the best I could, sometimes ruthlessly. A male character was changed to female. If the former was incident-oriented, this was story-oriented. I wanted backstories for the characters. I did not retain the suspense arc of Jimmy Shergill (played by Nandha) because I knew that those who have seen the original will know the reveal within the first few minutes. I wanted to keep him straightforward. I knew this was about police recruitment-related issues, and so I did not want to overly glorify those who con. I wanted an end-purpose that is positive since the film speaks about opportunities for people with honesty and integrity in the police force.
Did you tailor-make the film to suit Suriya?
You could say I played to the gallery. I wanted the audience to see the actor we so loved in films such as Pithamagan. And so, while the original was intelligent and taut, I wanted to make a film that would appeal to all. I wanted this film to work for Suriya, be a memorable experience for him. He usually works with established directors. It’s just that this film sees him doing things he has not done in a while. Which is why, it comes across as very fresh.
You have been vocal about the issue of piracy and recently put out a statement pleading with Tamil Rockers?
I had to. I hoped that it would at least make the audience that watches pirated films see reason. Ultimately, it is about them. People must understand what filmmakers go through to make a film. Everyone wants to show how clever they are and how they can subvert the system. That said, theatre collections are increasing, and it means that those who want to pay are increasing too.
The government must step in too. If China can ban Twitter and Facebook, and Dubai can ensure FaceTime and WhatsApp calls do not work there, why can’t we ban sites that kill an industry?
Suriya mentioned that he loved your dialogues. You do have a flair for writing ‘regular-sounding’ lines…
I’ve always loved writing. I keep looking for that one opportunity to write something with a twist; it could be lyrics, dialogues or a story. I enjoy that process.
So, was it a bit of a disappointment when people felt certain characters had not been well written in TSK and that there was no tying up of loose ends?
From this Friday, you’ll see a more well-rounded climax, including some shots with Keerthy Suresh, to show how the characters fare. I’d removed it because I felt the second half was lagging.
While the film is set in the 80s, the look and feel were not in-your-face. You’d kept it subtle.
Yes, in fact the actors were brought on board to help jog your memory. I am a huge fan of Karthik Sir. He managed to maintain his individuality at a time when the other stars ruled. My film was not high on bell bottoms, or big collars, because I did not want the audience to get detached. But, there were subtle touches. I don’t think there were any logical mistakes.
You celebrate the women in your life. How do you write women characters for the screen?
With the characters essayed by Ramya Krishnan and Keerthy Suresh, I wanted to show women who rise above circumstances. I was very particular that Ramya Krishnan’s children in the movie must smile at all times. This is a happy family despite the man of the house being bed-ridden. My only instruction was ‘always show your teeth and smile’!
Kaathu Vaakula… should be revived soon. I always work believing my best is yet to come.
The Vignesh ShivN interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.